As responsible pet owners, we always strive to ensure the health and well-being of our canine companions. Alongside a nutritious diet and regular veterinary care, supplements for dogs have gained popularity as a means to support our furry friends' overall health. However, a common question that arises is, "How long does it take for supplements to work in dogs?" In this blog post, we will delve into this topic and shed light on the factors that influence the timeline for supplements for dogs to take effect.
Giving supplements to your dog could improve their health and quality of life. But it’s always best to talk to your vet first. They’ll help you decide what’s safe for your fur baby, and what your pet truly needs, how much they should take and for how long.
Some Background on Supplements
Dog supplements are, by definition, not medication. As such, they are not tested and regulated in the same way as medications. This means that supplements for dogs are far more accessible to dog owners, as they usually can be purchased without a prescription. However, it also means that a dog supplement does not necessarily address specific health concerns in the same way, and their use comes with a certain amount of risk.
Have you ever wondered why supplements for dogs (and for people) are always administered in such high doses? It’s not uncommon to find those daily percentages of common vitamins and minerals in the tens of thousands of percent. While seemingly absurd, there’s actually logic behind it.
Nutrients absorbed through pills, powders, and chewable tablets prove less absorbable within a dog’s system (again, in people’s systems too—but let’s stick to dogs for now). The problem is simple to understand, complex to solve.
What Vitamins Do Dogs Need for Good Health?
All living organisms need vitamins and other organic compounds to stay healthy and support normal growth. Because vitamins aren’t naturally synthesized by the body, animals (and people) get them from the foods that they eat. All dogs are of the species Canis familiaris and as such have very similar nutritional needs.
For dogs, those specific nutritional needs include:
Vitamin K for activation of clotting factors, bone proteins, and other proteins
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) for carbohydrate metabolism and the activation of ion channels in neural tissue
Riboflavin and niacin (also known as vitamins B2 and B3, respectively) for enzyme functions
Vitamin B6 for glucose generation, red blood cell function, nervous system function, immune response, and hormone regulation
Folic acid for metabolism and protein synthesis
Unlike humans who require Vitamin C to sustain life, dogs possess the natural ability to make their own. Dogs can greatly benefit from vitamin C supplementation if needed. Without Vitamin C, humans can develop a disease called scurvy, and eventually die, yet dogs do just fine without it. However, there have been some reports claiming that vitamin C could help in the treatment of bladder infections.
Understanding more about the intricacies of pet supplements will help to determine how and when a supplement is absorbed.
Types of Supplements for Dogs
Before we explore the timeframe, it is crucial to understand that not all supplements for dogs are created equal (or found naturally in a dog's diet). There is a wide variety of the best dog supplements available, each designed to address specific health concerns in dogs. Some common types include joint supplements (glucosamine and chondroitin), omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, multivitamins, and herbal remedies.
More than one-third of homes with dogs use supplements, with joint and mobility issues cited as the most common reason. There are supplements for seniors, for skin and health, for urinary issues, to reduce inflammation and calm your pet, and overall multivitamins.
The most popular supplement for dogs is glucosamine. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is found naturally in the fluid around the joints to help build cartilage. Glucosamine is taken from the shells of shellfish and fish oil can also be made in the laboratory. Many dog owners and veterinarians believe that glucosamine for dogs is effective in treating arthritis. For older dogs, it may relieve joint pain and improve mobility. Some studies have shown little to no effect. However, a 2007 study in “The Veterinary Journal” showed that a glucosamine supplement reduced pain and increased mobility after 70 days of treatment.
Available in many forms, including pills, powders, and as treats, glucosamine supplements are usually formulated with chondroitin sulfate, which occurs naturally in the connective tissues of bone and cartilage.
Does My Dog Need Supplements?
If your commercial dog food says it’s a complete and balanced diet and meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, then your dog should be getting all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need from their food. This means you do not need a dog multivitamin unless your vet has recommended one.
Be sure to check the labels and ingredients on your dog food to ensure it’s complete and balanced. And to ensure he’s getting the appropriate levels for their age, always give your dog food that’s life-stage suitable — puppy, adult, or senior. They shouldn’t need any nutrient dog supplements unless your veterinarian recommends them.
However, if your dog is eating mainly homemade dog food or a vegan diet, they may not be getting everything they need. You should consult with your veterinarian to develop a plan to supplement your dog’s homemade food diet. Your vet may recommend adding certain foods to your recipes or using a dog multivitamin supplement.
Never give your dog human vitamin supplements. Dogs have very different nutritional needs than humans, and too much of certain vitamins can make dogs very ill. Suppose you’re considering giving your dog species-specific vitamins. In that case, it’s essential to contact your veterinarian to ensure your dog gets everything he needs without overdoing certain vitamins that he may already be getting in his diet.
Just like humans, every dog is unique, and their response to supplements may vary. Several factors influence how quickly a supplement will work for a particular dog. These factors include the dog's age, overall health condition, metabolism, and individual biochemistry. Therefore, it's important to remember that while some dogs may experience noticeable improvements quickly, others may require a more extended period before results become apparent.
The quality and composition of the supplement play a significant role in determining the time it takes to observe its effects. High-quality supplements often contain pure and bioavailable ingredients that are more readily absorbed by the dog's body. On the other hand, lower-quality supplements may contain fillers or additives, potentially delaying or diminishing the desired outcomes.
Duration and Consistency
In most cases, supplements need time to build up in the dog's system before their effects become noticeable. It is rare for a supplement to deliver instant results. Pet owners must be patient and consistent with their supplementation regimen. A dog's body needs time to process and utilize the nutrients provided by the supplement, and the benefits may accumulate gradually over time.
The Nature of the Condition
The type of condition or health concern being addressed by the supplement also affects the timeline for observable results. For instance, a dog with joint issues may take several weeks or even months of consistent supplementation before improvements in mobility and comfort are seen. Conversely, supplements that support coat and skin or joint health may yield more noticeable results within a shorter time frame.
While supplements can be a valuable addition to a dog's overall wellness routine, it's essential to remember that they should not replace professional veterinary care. Consultation with a veterinarian is crucial to identify the underlying health issue and determine the appropriate supplements for your dog's specific needs. Your vet can provide guidance on dosage, frequency, and the expected timeline for results based on your dog's unique circumstances.
What If My Dog Won’t Eat Supplements?
This is a pretty rare circumstance! While most dogs love the flavors of a supplement chew, all dogs are different and so are their preferences! Most supplements are made with natural flavoring (favorable to a dog’s palate) to give them a delicious and real taste.
If for whatever your reason your dog still doesn't like them, here are a few tricks that others have found to be helpful:
Crumble the chew/pill and add it to their regular food (sometimes with a little water)
Cover it in peanut butter (make sure there is no xylitol as an ingredient!)
Wrap it in a slice of deli meat or cheese
Are There Any Dangers in Giving Dogs Supplements?
Possibly. If an animal already eats a balanced diet and receives excess portions of some essential vitamins and minerals, they could be harmful, according to the FDA and veterinarians.
Too much calcium can cause skeletal problems, especially in large-breed puppies; too much vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain. Excess vitamin D can prompt a dog to stop eating, effect their digestive and gut health, harm bones, and cause muscles to atrophy.
Do Supplements Contain the Promised Nutrients?
Again, it depends. ConsumerLab.com, which tests products for its industry certification program and sells subscriptions to its reports for consumers, surveyed glucosamine/chondroitin supplements for pets and humans. Sixty percent of the pet products failed, compared to 25% of those manufactured for people, says Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com.
The National Animal Supplement Council also checked its members’ joint support products and found that 25% didn’t meet label claims, president Bill Bookout says. “We require companies to do an investigation, find out why that is, and take corrective action.”
ConsumerLab.com tests of three probiotic supplements in 2006 showed that only one contained enough viable organisms to be effective. “In the pet area, we’ve seen the quality is lower than it is for human supplements,” Cooperman says.
Now that you know more about dog vitamin supplements, the health benefits and what’s available, you can decide what’s right for your dog. As always, check with your veterinarian before introducing any new supplements to your dog’s diet.
Dog supplements and dog vitamins can be a beneficial tool in supporting your dog's health, especially older dogs or those with joint pain, but it's important to set realistic expectations regarding their effectiveness. The timeline for supplements for dogs to work varies based on several factors, including the type of supplement, individual variations, quality, duration, consistency, and the nature of the condition being addressed. Patience, consistency, and regular communication with your veterinarian are key to achieving the best results.
Remember, supplements should always be part of a comprehensive approach that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper veterinary care to ensure your furry friend's optimal well-being.